Card #159 -- Clarence Gaston, San Diego Padres
In 1992 and '93, "Cito" Gaston led the Toronto Blue Jays to World Series wins. With those two seasons, he piloted the only team from outside the United States to a title, a distinction that is still in force today. At the same time, he also became the first African-American manager to win a championship. As of this writing, he's still the only one, but I suspect that distinction should be a short-lived one (Ron Washington might be a good bet to win a title, maybe even Dusty Baker).
Gaston was a late-season call-up with the Braves in 1967, where he was a roomate with Hank Aaron during road trips. When the Padres grabbed him in the expansion draft the next year, he became one of that team's original players. He didn't appear in their first game, but was their regular center fielder over the course of the season. 1970 was his breakout year, seeing him hit a personal best 29 home runs and hitting over .300 for the only time in his career. He was traded to Atlanta before the 1975 season and played for the Pirates in two games at the end of '78 before calling an end to his first career.
Gaston took the role of hitting coach for the Blue Jays beginning in 1982 and worked under both Bobby Cox and Jimy Williams there. As part of that coaching staff, he mentored a group of great if underrated hitters. I was living in Upstate New York during that time and one of my best friends was a rabid Blue Jays fan. While the team's exploits were often unknown outside of the area (except for 1985, when they took the A.L. East from the Yankees), you can bet that my buddy kept me informed about it. In 1989, he took over the skipper position when Williams was fired. The team was at 12-24 and in last place when he was promoted, but eventually won the division. In fact, the Jays took their division in four of Gaston's first five seasons.
He remained in the manager's position through 1997, and then took the team over again from 2008 through 2010. He was regarded as a "players' manager" when the team was winning, but derided as a "push-button" manager then the team wasn't doing so well. It's funny how fickle baseball fans and writers can be simply based on the W/L column.